We tend to forget that everything we do leads us to the next place. Like everyone else, I've worked less than ideal jobs in my life, but those jobs helped get me where I am today. One of the most interesting and revealing things I did for myself early in my career, at a time when I was feeling stuck, was to draw up a chart that traced all the jobs I'd had up to that point. Together, the plotted jobs gave me a tangible map, showing me precisely where I'd been and what I'd learned about myself and my abilities. Putting together that puzzle of my likes, dislikes and skills was critical to helping me figure out the way forward. When you see all this in black and white, a picture begins to emerge. It's just as important to know what to eliminate from your life as it is to know what to keep and expand upon. If you feel hopeless because you're stuck in a job you dislike, then you may not be looking at the big picture, allowing yourself to get buried in the moment instead of looking up and trying to plot your next move. This exercise is designed to give you some perspective.

Here is my chart:

My takeaways? I liked running a business that connected with customers, that made money, that was creative, collaborative and exciting. I wanted to engage with content that was meaningful to people, especially meaningful to my own community. I loved a good story. I liked upbeat people and upbeat material. I knew how to sell, how to think on my feet, how to call the shots for a company and—very importantly—how to balance the books! I'd learned to love math! The next move for me was starting my own TV production company, delivering product to the Latin market.

Here is your chart to fill out:

What are the takeaways for you? What's the next thing you need to learn to round out your education? What do you love? What can you get passionate about? What do you wish you could delegate to someone else? What is it that you, and only you, can do—better than anyone else? What industry attracts you: Service? Hospitality? Retail? Manufacturing? Technology? Fashion? Food? Other?

The idea is that a picture starts to emerge—the puzzle of YOU starts coming together. The pieces of that puzzle will help you see yourself, and your assets, clearly, and will help you determine what kind of an entrepreneur you can be.

Let's say you're in your twenties and you're working as a waitress. You may feel that you're stuck in a crappy job. But if you can rise above the day-to-day for a moment, consider what you are learning on the job. For one thing, you are learning the workings of a restaurant, and maybe you see what the owner of the restaurant is doing right or wrong. You understand what it takes to provide excellent customer service and to keep your employees happy. You engage with customers face-to-face. You learn the costs of staff, overhead and food deliveries, as well as how to manage orders and efficiencies. You may see areas where the current owner could make improvements. Maybe you're thinking, "If I were in charge, here's what I'd do differently..." Maybe you are inspired to own your own restaurant. Maybe you feel inspired to go to school to get a degree in management, in the culinary arts or in business administration. Then, with the next step, and the next level of expertise and earning power, your acquired skills and ambitions change once more. Perhaps you're in the position to realize your dream of owning your own business by the time you're 45. Fifteen years later, the years of success in business can allow you to dedicate yourself, in your sixties, to running a nonprofit that speaks to your passion and your mission.

Tease out the puzzle pieces of your life and put them together. There's not one right configuration. There may be several. This is trial and error, with a purpose. I want you to see every stage as preparation for the next. This is an ascent—an accumulation of experience and knowledge, guided by the imperative to become an owner in every aspect of your own life, no matter where you are and what your job is. So, it's not about finding the next job; it's about acquiring inner-strength, clarity and purpose.

Self Made This excerpt was taken from Self Made: Becoming Empowered, Self-Reliant, and Rich in Every Way, by Nely Galán. Copyright © 2016 Excerpted by permission of Random House, A Penguin Random House Company. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


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